Q&A with ‘Greater Tuna’ director

Published 3:06 pm Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Several months ago, the Canebrake Players invited long-time Sumter County resident and community theater veteran, Suzanne McGahey, to select and direct the second show of their 2013 season.

McGahey confesses she enlisted her husband, James (retired director of theater at UWA), to help with the task of narrowing a long list of potential titles.

“I wanted to find something really special,” she said. “I was looking for a show that would be a lot of fun for everyone involved, but different from anything ever attempted in this area.”

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“Greater Tuna” by Jaston Williams, Joe Sears and Ed Howard was her final selection and Mrs. McGahey predicts that Demopolis audiences will still be laughing years from now when they recall their favorite scenes.

Although rehearsals, costume meetings and design consultations occupy most of her time nowadays, McGahey found a few moments to tell us more about The Canebrake Players’ upcoming production.

Could you summarize the storyline for those who haven’t heard about “Greater Tuna”?

“This play takes a humorous, but loving, look at a day in the life of a fictional town called Tuna—population 24—which is located somewhere in Texas. Because it was written around 1980 and reminds us Baby Boomers of the people we grew up with, we have chosen to set “Greater Tuna” in the 1970’s.”

Why did you choose “Greater Tuna”?

“First and foremost, because it’s hilariously funny! But I was also intrigued by the technical challenges.”

What kind of challenges?

“Even though there are about 20 characters in the play, all are traditionally played by a limited number of actors. In our production, all the characters will be played by only 3 actors—Mike Baker, Frank Calloway and Buddy Pickel. Young or old, male or female, these 3 guys will play all the characters–as well as a couple of dogs. In addition to learning all the parts, they will make well over 30 costume changes!”

“Meanwhile, the tech crew will be creating about a dozen locations using only 2 tables, 4 chairs, lighting and sound effects. We expect to have well in excess of 150 scene change, lighting and sound cues!”

“Staging this show has been like working a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle!”

Why take on such a challenging production?

“Demopolis has an amazing community theater group and I wanted to provide them an opportunity to show off their skills, their resourcefulness and their heart.”

But what’s in it for you?

“Plenty! I haven’t been active in the performing arts for the past few years, so it’s a joy to be back in a theater. It’s like coming home.”

“It’s especially meaningful to have my family involved.” [Husband, James, is helping with technical aspects of the production and daughter, Kelley Jordan, is stage managing.

“What a pleasure to work with the Canebrake Players! I’ve never worked with a more dedicated group of people. They truly are an asset to their community.”

How are rehearsals going?

“So far, so good! I’m very proud of Buddy, Frank and Mike. They realize they have a big challenge ahead of them and they have approached this production with more dedication than some professional actors I’ve worked with!”

Any parting words for potential audience members?

“Prepare to be amazed!”

Performances of “Greater Tuna” are scheduled for Friday – Monday, March 13-15. Tickets will be available at the entrance to the school auditorium beginning at 6:00 pm and the curtain goes up at 7:30 pm. Ticket price is $10.00/person.

According to McGahey, “Greater Tuna” should probably be rated PG. Although there is no cursing, very young audiences simply may not understand the humor.